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OMG, that TXT to your BFF could really cost you

More than just the famed Times Square ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. So did text- messaging devices from the hands of Washington drivers, or at least that’s the aim with a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.

The Washington State Patrol plans to “vigorously enforce” the state’s new law against sending text messages while driving.

“Texting while driving was always a bad idea,” said John R. Batiste, Washington State Patrol Chief, in a news release. “Things happen too fast on the highway to take your eyes off the road long enough to read or type anything.”

Texting while operating a moving vehicle can now land drivers with a $124 ticket.

The new bill makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers could receive a ticket only if they were pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding or running a red light. But it could mean the driver ends up with two tickets.

“When we see other driving errors, such as weaving or unsafe lane changes, we will not hesitate to write a second citation under the texting law if that contributed to the first violation,” Batiste said.

The measure exempts transit and emergency vehicle personnel, as well as anyone who is text messaging to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.

The new law doesn’t seem to faze island teenagers and their affinity for finger-frenzied texting to friends.

“It’s just faster than calling when you want to say something quick to someone,” said Coupeville High School freshman Dakota Brown.

Coupeville Senior Jared Murdy said that even though he’s not against the idea of texting while driving he said the law was probably a good idea.

“Texting really distracts a lot of people,” Murdy said.

And Washington residents had better start shopping for hands-free devices for their cellular phones, as a new law that goes into effect July 1 will prohibit the use of hand-held wireless communication devices while driving.

“The best thing for people to do is pull over, or if they must make a call while driving, use a hands-free device,” said Capt. Rick Wallace of the Oak Harbor Police Department. “For people driving while texting the only solution is to stop their car and pull over, it’s just too dangerous to do both.”

Information from the Washington State Patrol encourages parents to talk to their teenage drivers about the new law and prepare them to put down their cell phones come July.

“There is no driver on the road skilled enough to drive and text at the same time,” Batiste said. “Especially not a teenager with only a year or two of driving experience.”

Other driving fines that could make a dent in drivers’ pocketbooks in the new year include ticket fees of $380 for incorrect lane change (not using a turn signal or cutting someone off), $485 for blocking an intersection, $450 for driving on the shoulder, $101 for riding unbelted in a vehicle, and of course, $285 for cell phone usage while driving (secondary offense until July 1) and $570 if you dare to use that cell phone in a construction zone.

For more information about the new laws, visit www.wa.gov.

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